Pep Guardiola isn’t short of an attacking player.
When Manchester City signed Jack Grealish from Aston Villa this summer for £100m, he joined Ferran Torres, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and the wealth of options available to Guardiola when he selects his starting line-up before each game.
The Catalan is a manager who likes to rotate regularly. From one week to the next, you’re never too sure which combination of player might line up in the final third, especially with City fighting on four competition fronts in the early stages of the season.
The surprise is perhaps that Grealish, taken out of boyhood club Villa where he was the captain and the talisman, has played quite as much as he has done in the early stages.
Maybe it’s to do with the fact that a £100m player ought to always be playing when available, but Grealish’s minutes so far don’t compare at all to those of his teammates when they arrived at the club.
Mahrez, for example, cost City £60m from Leicester in the summer of 2018 and didn’t complete 90 minutes until the October, while he started just two of his first seven matches.
Leroy Sane, who left the Etihad last summer, didn’t complete 90 minutes until January 2017, having signed the previous summer and was often an unused substitute.
Grealish, meanwhile has started in all nine of City’s Premier League and Champions League games so far and has still been on the pitch at the final whistle in four of them.
He’s scored a couple of goals so far and the consistency of minutes has helped him make the transition from Villa, where he was heavily relied upon to produce, to a club where the expectation is greater but the individual responsibility isn’t quite as intense.
“Yeah, sure he’s fitting in well,” Mahrez said recently. “He’s adapted to the way we play. I think the coach and the team are really helping him. He’s playing in a lot of games, of course, which makes it easier to fit in. When I arrived, I didn’t play in all the games straight away.”
There’s an element of throwing toys out of the pram from Mahrez with that final comment, and therein lies the job Guardiola has on his hands to not only maintain results but maintain squad morale.
For now, more so than those before him, Grealish is getting a proper run in the team from the off and is being given a chance to prove he has what it takes to belong in such company.